Nitrous Oxide Is Extremely Dangerous, So Why Is It So Popular?

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Nitrous Oxide use in Ireland has become a huge problem is recent years. It’s particularly an issue with young Irish people who think using Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas as it is also somewhat innocently known as, is just a bit of fun on a night out. But there are serious risks associated with it and it has caused a number of health issues for users, including death.

Here’s what you need to know about Nitrous Oxide and the danger it poses.

What Is Nitrous Oxide​?

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or nitrous, is a chemical compound. To get scientific, its an oxide of nitrogen with the formula N ₂O. At room temperature, it is a colourless non-flammable gas, with a slight metallic scent and taste. 

Nitrous oxide is used for sedation and pain relief, but is also used by people to feel intoxicated or high. It is commonly used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients undergoing minor medical procedures.

It is also used to blow up balloons. It may seem innocent enough, but it’s so dangerous when consumed outside of a medical setting. 

Other names for Nitrous Oxide

a picture of Nitrous Oxide canisters
  • Laughing gas
  • silver bullets
  • hippy crack
  • buzz bomb
  • balloons
  • nitro
  • N2O
  • NOS
  • nangs
  • whippet

Effects of nitrous oxide

as always, there is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries risk. 

Nitrous oxide affects everyone differently, based on:

  • the amount taken
  • the user’s size, weight and health
  • whether the person is used to taking it
  • whether other drugs are taken around the same time
 

The following effects may be felt almost immediately and can last for a few minutes: 

  • euphoria
  • numbness of the body
  • sedation
  • giddiness
  • uncontrolled laughter
  • uncoordinated movements
  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • dizziness and/or light-headedness
  • sweating
  • feeling unusually tired or weak
  • sudden death.
 

If a large amount of nitrous oxide is inhaled it can produce:

  • loss of blood pressure
  • fainting
  • heart attack.
 

Inhaling nitrous oxide can be fatal if you don’t get enough oxygen, which is known as hypoxia.

Long-term effects

Prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide may result in:

  • memory loss
  • vitamin B12 depletion (long-term depletion causes brain and nerve damage)
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • incontinence
  • numbness in the hands or feet
  • limb spasms
  • potential birth defects (if consumed during pregnancy)
  • weakened immune system
  • disruption to reproductive systems
  • depression
  • psychological dependence
  • psychosis.

Why is nitrous oxide​ suddenly so popular?

Nitrous Oxide has become a trend recently. It’s alarmingly cheap to buy. The “silver bullets” that contain the laughing gas have become commonly spotted as litter in various places such parks and beaches around Ireland, a hallmark that a social gathering had taken place with drug use.

At the start of 2021, the HSE warned that there had been a surge in the number of people using it, especially during festivals.

Laughing Gas Has Been Linked To Deaths

Alex Ryan Morrissey from, Tallaght in Dublin, took some laughing gas during a lockdown house party.

The 15-year-old was found slumped over a wall and later died after being rushed to Crumlin Hospital.

He is the first confirmed death from laughing gas in Ireland, but there have been more reported around the world.

The HSE has also warned that laughing gas can cause death by suffocation.

You're Taking A Serious Risk

There’s something slightly innocuous about the silver bullets – they look like they might be a bit of fun and maybe not as dangerous as other drugs. Don’t be fooled. There is no safe level of drug use. Any use of drugs in any amount always carries a serious risk to health and life. Laughing gas is a dangerous substance and there can be serious sides effects from taking it. 

If you are ever offered a silver bullet and told it’s just a bit of fun, it’s not dangerous and will give you a quick high – you now know the serious risk you could be taking by partaking in it.

You can get more information on the dangers of laughing gas on drugs.ie.

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